I spent the autumns of my youth standing next to a mushroom and yelling “Mom.” Russians, like my family, love mushrooms. And in Massachusetts, where I grew up, they’re crazy about a particular red-capped bolete that grows in the sandy soil of Cape Cod.

“They grow everywhere, and Russians pick them also everywhere,” says my mom.

Even on other people’s lawns, when there’s a no trespassing sign?

“I trespass all the time,” she says, “if you call it trespassing.”

Right. Seriously, if you live on Cape Cod, check your window — there is probably a Russian woman rappelling onto your lawn with a bolo knife between her teeth. This is what mushroom picking does to otherwise normal people…

For PRI’s The World (a co-production of the BBC)


For a complete archive of my stories for The World, click here.